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Often times we think of books more for what’s on the inside than on the outside, but a creative book binding can cause us to stop and take note. A new book binding exhibit on display at Harvard’s Houghton Library intends to do just that.

The exhibit, titled InsideOUT: Contemporary Bindings of Private Press Books, features creative book binding designs from 59 book binders in the United States. For the exhibit, the book binders were asked to choose one of 28 titles to bind. The binders were instructed to interpret the text artistically using the binding as a medium, and the results were unique to say the least:

Contemporary bookbinders find inspiration and materials well beyond the traditional leather, which is evident throughout the exhibition. One volume features Tyvek (an industrial plastic used to wrap scaffolding and make FedEx envelopes) studded with mother of pearl; another takes cues from garments, sporting beaded velvet. Metal, wood, plastic, glass, silk, lace, and leather in many hues come together via inlays, onlays, stamping, tooling, and sewing.

Many binders chose the same book to interpret, so it’s interesting to see how interpretations varied across the spectrum. Check out a few examples here. The exhibit is on display at Harvard’s Houghton Library through December 13.


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